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Both sides of the Pence Amendment debate were present at several Chicago-area protests within the past week.


Bill to slash funding of abortion providers approved in House, awaiting Senate decision

by Bernard A. Lubell
March 03, 2011


Related Links

Planned Parenthood of IllinoisPro-Life Action LeagueNational Center for Public Policy ResearchUniversity of Chicago, School of Social Service and Administration

How Illinois Congressman voted in the House

Rep. Bobby Rush (D) – NO

Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.(D) – NO

Rep. Dan Lipinski  (D)– YES

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D) – NO

Rep. Mike Quigley (D) – NO

Rep. Peter Roskam (R) – YES

Rep. Danny Davis (D) – NO

Rep. Joe Walsh (R) – YES

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D) – NO

Rep. Bob Dold (R) – NO

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R) – YES

Rep. Jerry Costello (D) – YES

Rep. Judy Biggert (R) – NO

Rep. Randy Hultgren (R) – YES

Rep. Tim Johnson (R) – YES

Rep. Don Manzullo (R) – YES

Rep. Robert Schilling (R) – YES

Rep. Aaron Schock (R) – YES

Rep. John Shimkus (R) – YES

 


A controversial amendment seeking to slash all federal funding to organizations that provide abortion counseling or care is sitting in the U.S. Senate this week after being approved in the House of Representatives in February.

As the nation’s leading sexual and reproductive health care provider, Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc. has been the target of the proposed amendment. And while it sits in the House, delayed by the potential government shutdown, the issue of abortion has reigned supreme.

But abortions account for less than 3 percent of Planned Parenthood services nationwide, according to the organization, and they insist that the issue is not one of abortion, but of affordable access to health care. In Illinois, less than 10 percent of services provided by Planned Parenthood are abortions, the organization said.

“More than 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood provides is basic preventative health care,” said Carole Brite, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Illinois. “People don’t realize that is the vast majority of what we do, and these funds cover the women and families that have access to health care the least.”

Nearly 35,000 patients visit one of the seven Planned Parenthood health centers in Chicago each year. More than 15,000 of those patients will be directly affected by the amendment because they rely on full federal funding or Medicaid funding to receive services, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood said.

The Pence Amendment to H.R. 1, named after U.S. Rep. Mike Pence (R-Muncie.), was approved by the Republican-dominated House of Representatives on February 18 by a vote of 240 to 185.

If passed in the Senate, what will the Pence Amendment do?

 
The proposed amendment would cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood’s family planning services, which include tests for sexually transmitted diseases, cancer screenings and contraceptives, by $8 million in Illinois, according to a Planned Parenthood official.

Planned Parenthood said that abortion procedures are not federally funded, and are paid out-of-pocket by patients.

Others said any federal funding and taxpayer money can still indirectly fund the abortions.

“I do not want to see any of my money going there because they are the nation’s largest abortion chain,” said Eric Scheidler, executive director of Pro-Life Action League, in Chicago. “I don’t believe there is a woman who has no other outlet than Planned Parenthood, there are other outlets.”

Scheidler said the net effect of Planned Parenthood is to lead to “greater human misery.”

But an organization like Planned Parenthood is important to health care infrastructure, according to Colleen Grogan, a professor at the school of social service administration at the University of Chicago.

“I think our worry is that we’re not providing enough reproductive health services,” Grogan said. “STDs are on the rise and adolescent sexual behavior is increasing … so when you take a significant part of our infrastructure and say they can’t provide, that can only mean access will only go down.”

Possible implications

Grogan said if the amendment is passed it would be a “significant loss.” She said there are not many other options if Planned Parenthood’s funding suffers, and some of the remaining options do not offer abortions.

“There are clinics that will provide services on a sliding fee scale,” she said. “So they will take into account the person’s income and adjust the fee to make it affordable.”

She also said peripheral organizations will not be able to handle the influx of patients if Planned Parenthood can no longer provide services should the amendment pass.

Organizations on the other side of the spectrum insist the promotion of abortion is the underlying concern, however.

“The business of Planned Parenthood is abortion,” said David Almasi, executive director of The National Center for Public Policy Research, a Washington, D.C-based conservative think tank. “By taking away federal funding you’re taking away fundable money that is being used to promote abortion and that is what people are concerned about and that is what is driving the amendment, not access to health care.”

Almasi said that while the principle has been discussed in the past, the controversy has never been more severe than it is today.

“There have been many discussions supporting the idea that federal tax dollars should not be spent to fund something [people] are morally opposed to.”

A time of need

But for people like New Yorker Chloe Heintz, the debate strikes a more personal chord.

Chloe was 17 when her then-boyfriend raped her, she said. In a video posted on YouTube addressing the potential Planned Parenthood cuts, she said he took advantage of her while she was intoxicated.

“This bill has nothing to do with abortion services and everything to do in reality with the devaluation of women, our lives and our right to health and, thus, the same network of support and potential as men in this country,” Heintz, now 22 and a college graduate, said in an e-mail.

“Planned Parenthood means support, validation and opportunity for me,” she added.

Heintz turned to Planned Parenthood for STD testing and counseling. In the video, she said the organization provided her with the tools to regain her physical and emotional health.

“We’re proud to be there for women, and we hope that we will be able to continue to be there for the millions of women that count on us and our services every day,” a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Illinois said.

Illinois General Assembly

For every dollar spent on family planning, four dollars are saved on Medicaid expenses, according to U.S. Rep Mike Quigley (D-Chicago).

“Family planning is an important ingredient for anyone’s good health,” said Quigley, who voted against the amendment. “It’s just so frustrating that this is penned on one issue and creates a storm out of absolutely nothing.”

While the amendment is said to be part of a Republican agenda, U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Willowbrook) voted against the funding slash.

“Rep. Biggert’s top priority is to cut spending and create jobs,” said Abby Milone, a spokeswoman for Rep. Biggert. “Unfortunately, the amendment was more about advancing a social agenda than fiscal responsibility. It unfairly zeroed-out funding for an organization that provides women’s health services such as pap smears, mammograms, STD testing and reproductive care. That’s why she voted no.”

Of the 19 congressman in Illinois, Quigley and Biggert are two of eight who voted against the amendment, while 11 voted in favor of the amendment.

After multiple attempts, no congressman who voted yes was available for comment.

The Pence Amendment to H.R. 1 now sits in the Senate and a vote is likely to be made the end of the month, according to a policy spokeswoman from Planned Parenthood.